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Significant snowpack keeping things cold in parts of Alberta?

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    Digital writers

    Wednesday, November 6, 2013, 11:50 AM -

    Places like Edmonton and Red Deer saw temperatures dip into the -20s on Tuesday.

    That's after over 30 cm of snow piled up in parts of the province over the weekend.

    The frigid and winter-like conditions continued on Wednesday as Red Deer recorded a chilly base temperature of -14°C at 5 am.

    At the exact same time, Calgary was around -4, approximately 10 degrees warmer than Red Deer. 

    What's with the big temperature variation?

    According to Weather Network meteorologist Monica Vaswani, such variations in temperatures experienced in two cities within close proximity to one another can be the result of a few variables:

    1) Difference in elevation.
    2) Differences in cloud cover.
    3) Differences in surface variables (such as a snowpack).

    "Given that Red Deer saw over 30 cm of snow this past weekend while Calgary only saw only 17 cm, (and confirming current snow amounts visually using traffic cams) it is likely (but we cannot say for certain that it is the only variable) that the presence of the snowpack over Red Deer is playing a role in this temperature variation," Vaswani explains. "Snow being a lighter colour than most ground surfaces reflects much of the radiation from the sun, thus keeping the surface temperatures relatively cool. This is what is happening in Red Deer."

    In Calgary on the other hand, some snow has melted, so the ground is able to absorb more radiation from the sun and warm faster.

    "In other words the higher albedo of the snowpack is resulting in a cooler surface temperature," adds Vaswani.

    Heavy snow in Red Deer- Michele Brunner

    Heavy snow in Red Deer- Michele Brunner

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